A good few years ago when I was working at a hedge fund in London, I used to go to work everyday at our offices on Duke of York Square which is a really lovely pedestrianised area just behind the Saatchi gallery. It was pretty idyllic in terms of London locations - really amazing cafés, really great shops and Partridges had a huge American section where you could get things like Stubbs which is the best bbq sauce in the world. So, all in all, a lovely place to work - AND it was opposite Manicomio's - a pretty little slice of Italian flawlessness with lots of outdoor seating on the terrace and a brilliant deli indoors if you wanted to grab something to take home for supper. The first time I went to Manicomio's was the first time I'd tried wild boar ragu with pappardelle. I will never forget how delicious that bowl of pasta was in all it's simple perfection. There are probably 20 really stand-out meals I've had in my life and that is one of them.
Over the years I used to go to Manicomio a fair old bit - work drinks, work lunches, celebrating happy news, commiserating sad news, lamenting tedious first-world-problems and just simple things like sitting out on the terrace until the last possible second with my flatmate because our 4th floor flat in Pimlico used to get so unbelievably warm in the dog days of a sweltering London summer.
So I've always had a huge soft spot for Mani's and still go there now and again. In fact if you're reading this and you want to take me out for dinner, take me to Manicomio. OR, take me to Canto Corvino. It's by the same group that own Manicomio in Chelsea (and in the City). I went on Friday night with friends and it is amazing. Properly amazing.
First of all, it looks amazing. It's down Artillery Lane which is also home to places like Ottolenghi and the Breakfast Cafe and it just has this lovely buzzy feel to it. When you walk into Canto Corvino the bar is right in front and the restaurant to the left. The big windows all open onto the street and the window boxes are filled with lush green rosemary.
The Canto bar is quite rightly getting a bit of a reputation for serving up a brilliant mix of original creations as well as innovative takes on the classics. Headed by Junior Donadi, the bar serves an extensive wine list (over 200) that focuses on small producers and indigenous grape varieties from all over Italy. I love the fact there is a story behind the name like there is at Manicomio ('mad house' in Italian because the site was the old asylum for solders). Canto Corvino means 'singing raven' - the ripe grapes have long been an attraction for these gourmet birds who will always be found at the sites of Canto Corvino's wine producers.
We started the night with these spantom gin & tonics - hendricks, tonic, cucumber, cinnamon stick. Brilliant and super refreshing.
The design of Canto Corvino is just my kind of super cool, low-key luxe - everything is finished to an exceptionally high standard and really well considered. It's things like lighting that can really make or break a dining experience and they really got it spot on. The design is by the award-winning B3 Designers - see more of their commercial work here - it's really outstanding.
We didn't eat in the private dining room but we had a quick tour and isn't it the most perfect room for dinner with a large group of friends or family? Love the brick, the map, the candles, the metal wine racks, and just the overall vibe was so spot on.
I had the coastal cod, cannellini, samphire and mussel bagnacauda which the kitchen did as a dairy-free option because I'm allergic to milk. No fuss, no eye rolling, the staff were cool about everything and the perfect mix of attentive but totally in the background.
To take a look at the a la carte menu click here but I'm thinking next time I go it's going to have to be Sunday brunch. I can't think of a more perfect way to spend a Sunday.